Although biomimicry has been around for quite some time, the products that scientists can develop inspired by nature never seize to amaze. One such example comes from German scientists from the Foundry Institute of the RWTH Aachen University and Plant Biomechanics Group of the University of Freiburg, who created a new material from aluminum and silicon that can significantly improve safety and straight of packaging and safety materials, inspired by the peel of pomelo fruit.
Pomelo lovers know better than anyone that in order to have a taste of the yummy citrus fruit, one should invest quite a substantial amount of time cleaning it. The reason behind this is the thick peel around it, which often constitutes as much as half of the total weight. This peel consists of a graded, fiber-inforced foam, which is strong, but also flexible to allow deformation. It is needed in order to protect the fruit from damage and to ensure that the seeds are intact when it falls from the 10 meters height at which it grows.
The German scientists, who published their findings in the Journal of Material Science earlier this month, related the properties, or rather the functions, of the pomelo peel to aluminum packaging materials. Inspired by the flexibility and toughness of the fruit’s outer side, the team was able to create a metal hybrid that has pure aluminum in the center and aluminum-silicon alloy around it.
The final result was a composite material, which is much stronger than pure aluminum and much more flexible that aluminum-silicon allow. The team suggests that this light and relatively cheep to produce bio-inspired composite material could prove to be extremely useful in the car industry, where safety of the materials is of an essence.
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